Facebook introduces Disaster Maps feature for users in India: Everything you should know

Facebook’s new disaster maps will help improve how organizations respond to crises.


In a bid to help people respond faster and easily in times of any natural disasters, Facebook has introduced Disaster Maps feature in India. This new feature has been launched to help communities across the country to recover and rebuild from natural disasters faster by sharing critical pieces of data with humanitarian agencies in a timely manner.
The new feature was announced at the company's first Disaster Response Summit in India.

Facebook introduces Disaster Maps feature for users in India


Basically, the social media giant will be sharing all the information with trusted organizations that will act on the provided data quickly and provide relief effort in the affected areas. The company has assured though that it has established a mutual understanding with organizations and that they respect Facebook's privacy standards. Besides, Facebook is collaborating with these organizations to "establish formal processes for responsibly sharing the datasets with others."

Facebook will make data from Disaster Maps available to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS), a non-profit organization working on disaster resilience.

Functionality of Disaster Maps

Disaster Maps, which was introduced globally in June and at the time Facebook had revealed that these maps use aggregated, de-identified Facebook data to help organizations address the critical gap in the information they often face when responding to natural disasters.

"In times of disaster, our platform is a valuable source of information - whether it's letting your friends and family know you are safe with Safety Check feature or using Facebook to raise donations for relief efforts," said Ritesh Mehta, Head of Programmes, India, South and Central Asia at Facebook.

He added, "Through our work with the National Disaster Management Authority and the  of Disaster Maps in India and the disaster information volunteers initiative, we hope we can help communities get the information they need to prepare, respond and recover if disaster strikes."

"NDMA is proactively utilizing social media for awareness generation. This is an important benchmark towards integrating social media with disaster response activities. I am sure this partnership will open new avenues for using mobile technology in a disaster situation," said RK Jain, Member, NDMA.

Three Types of Maps

Three Types of Maps

Interestingly, Facebook will provide multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts which will include aggregated location information people have chosen to share with Facebook.

Firstly there is the Location density map which will show where people are located before, during and after a disaster. "We can compare this information to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster," Facebook said in a statement.

Then, there is the Movement map which will show patterns of movement between different neighborhoods or cities over a period of several hours. So by analyzing these patterns, response organizations will be able to better predict where resources are needed, predict traffic and formulate suitable patterns of evacuation.

Finally, there is the Safety Check map which makes use of the "Safety Check" feature to help notify your friends and family that you are safe during a disaster. "We are using this de-identified data in aggregate to show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help organizations understand where people are most vulnerable and where help is needed," said the company.

Support for ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) Scheme

Apart from all these, Facebook also announced that it is supporting the pilot of the ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme where a network of trained volunteers provide supplementary information to inform relief efforts through theFacebook Workplace platform.

The company has collaborated with the Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society (SEEDS) for this measure. The programme will be piloted in two disaster-prone states -- Assam and Uttarakhand.

"This programme, which is being executed by SEEDS (a leading NGO working on disaster resilience), will establish a network of volunteers to provide real-time, first-hand information on disasters in their local communities. The volunteers will be trained and connected through existing networks of local and credible civil society organizations (as identified by SEEDS) as well as willing individuals from public agencies," said the company in a release.

"The disaster information volunteer network and Facebook's Disaster Maps will play a key role in helping us get the right help to the right people at the right time," added Manu Gupta, Director, SEEDS.

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